Healthcare and Life Sciences: The Future of Biotech in 100 Years?

Healthcare and Life Sciences: The Future of Biotech in 100 Years?

By Siwei Zhang

Many innovators try to predict the next big thing. Indeed, if we look back on some of those predictions made in the late 1970s and early 1980s on what year 2000 appears like, quite a few of them would make you laugh for their sheer exaggeration. In brief, it is 2016 now, and we still cannot cure cancer. Then, there were  far-more ambitious predictions such as human hibernation, in vitro cultured organs for transplantation, and regeneration of whole body parts.

Most of these mispredictions stemmed from over confidence and a lack of stringent scientific methodology. Rather than employing a forecast style using the current biotech development as a trend, it would be more rigorous if we use a retroactive approach and make comparative studies on the history of biotechnology.

Rather than using a forecast style, I have, in turn, used a retroactive approach to show you the future of biotech in the early 2100s.

The Future of Biotech in 2100:

Generally, biotechnology still maintains its close, if not indispensable, relationship with the human society in the 2100s. Drug development both as biologics and non-biologics, food manufacture and processing, clinical application of genetic diagnosis and treatment, and bionics all gain extensive development thanks to the increased interest and funding of biotech startups that  started approximately 100 years ago.

Drug Development in 100 Years:

In the field of drug development, the market portion of biologics, such as monoclonal antibodies and DNA-based vaccines, have taken over a significant marketing portion from traditional pharmaceutical products. Large-scale production of biopharmaceuticals, both in the form of tissue culture and transgenic organisms, provide essential medical reagents previously only able to be sourced from humans such as Factor Xa and specific types of blood cells for targeted transfusion. However, traditional, small molecule-based medicine still maintains a considerable portion of the market. As a result of massively-increased computational power derived from the industrial application of quantum computing, the initial screening of small molecule candidates is replaced by a computer simulated, purpose-driven design of specific compounds, which greatly reduced the Phase I stage of drug R&D processes.

Genetically Modified Food Feeds the Broader Population:

In food manufacture and processing, the proportion of genetically-modified (GM) crops continues to grow. Although the very initial GM crops have already passed the test for a generation, public opinions on GM products is still highly divisive, which creates a two-tier food market. In addition to GM crops, GM animal products have been widely marketed, which significantly shortened the product cycle length and made protein available to a broader population at a reduced cost.

Western Countries Ban Gene Therapy:

Genetic diagnosis and the application of the derived big data have been an integral part of society, which is not limited to medical purposes but also been used as important referencing factors in the field of health insurance, birth risk analysis, and even the calculation of personal credit, serving as both positive and negative factors. Clinically, gene therapy is able to disrupt, remove, and repair undesired fragments in the genome on individual level, which enables full recovery of retrovirus-associated diseases and genetic-borne defects. However, the practice of such gene manipulation on reproductive organs and gametes is still being highly disputed, which results in its banning in most of the Western countries.

Stem Cells and Nanobot Technology:

Finally, after almost a century of development and maturation, bionics and related technologies blossom extensively in the 2100s. Advanced bionic implants, which employ neurosensory adaptors, have been used in patients who completely lost hearing or vision at the organ level. Embedded computational units, which simulate part of the neural network within brain, assists patients to gain back their normal brain activities post trauma. Similarly, stem cells can be faithfully pre-programmed before administration to ensure them to differentiate into desired tissues or organs. This will allow repair and regeneration on a cellular level. The only unfortunate part is that the much-anticipated blood-infusible nanobot technologies are still not established enough to permit its human application, such as for the treatment of atherosclerosis. This is  mainly due to the lack of an efficient control system to direct the precise behaviours of the nanobots in vivo.

To sum up, the biotechnology sector in the 2100s is both fulfilling and challenging. The advancement of disruptive technologies greatly boosts many fields such as agriculture, medical science, and integration between humans and computers, but it also creates new challenges and controversies, such as the ability to introduce inheritable genetic modifications in humans and the complete overhaul of traditional life and the medical insurance industry.

By providing a slice of the future of biotech development and its associated social impacts in the form of a futurespective history of science, I hope our analysis could provide references for bioentrepreneurs during their decision-making process, and help them to make better pronouncements for the advancement of the biotech industry in the contemporary era.

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